— Ashish Dikshit (@DikshitAshish) July 19, 2016
On July 19, Mumbai witnessed a huge crowd gathering near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to protest the demolition of Dr B R Ambedkar’s office in Dadar, in June.
Over thousands of protesters, led by Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, braved the heavy downpour and raised slogans against the demolition that almost clogged the southern part of the city.
Ambedkar Bhavan was a heritage building at the heart of Mumbai that dates back to 1930. It is where Dr Ambedkar began his political movement. On the wee hours of June 25, the building was demolished by the senior member of an organisation called People’s Improvement Trust.
The demolition agitated Prakash Ambedkar and his Republican Party Of India and they launched an FIR at the Bhoiwada police station against PIT. The PIT chief, however, explained that the demolition was necessary because the building was in a dilapidated state and they wished to redevelop it into a 17-storey structure, naming it as Dr Ambedkar Bhavan.
The July 19 protest saw a huge gathering and also saw the participation of the JNU Students Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar. He had addressed the crowd who cheered him. The massive gathering of around 20,000 people caught the attention of the Centre, who had talks with the Maharashtra Government over the issue of restoring the building as a memorial.
Sitaram Yechury of CPI-M raised the issue through a zero hour mention.
Yechury said the state government and the municipality have not just demolished a heritage structure, but a building that represents the “heritage of freedom movement, a building that represents heritage of the dalit movement.”
The building was built by BR Ambedkar out of his own money to provide a place for ostracised Dalits at that time. It also housed a printing press for publishing Dalit literature.
Mayawati (BSP) said while the government talks of buying and converting the room in London where Ambedkar spent his days, a building built on the land bought by him out of his own money has been demolished.
She demanded rebuilding of a grand structure at the site of the demolition.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the legislature on Wednesday that the Ambedkar Bhavan that also housed a press owned by Dr B R Ambedkar, will be restored by month end.